SINGAPORE: It is a "mistaken" view that all Members of Parliament from the ruling People's Action Party hold the same perspectives, said party leader Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday (Jul 12).
"Some think that since PAP MPs all wear white and white, they are also monochrome in their ideas and perspectives. This view is quite mistaken," the Prime Minister said.
"In fact we do our utmost to field a diverse team, and make sure that every MP brings something different to the table.”
Mr Lee was speaking in his role as party secretary-general at an appreciation dinner that would have been held shortly after the 2020 General Election if not for the COVID-19 pandemic.
The PAP won 61.24 per cent of the votes in the July 2020 polls, winning 83 seats out of an available 93. A total of 20 PAP MPs retired that year.
During the appreciation dinner at Parliament House, Mr Lee presented valedictory letters to the retired MPs.
Among them are party stalwarts like Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, former Deputy Speaker of Parliament Charles Chong, as well as former Cabinet ministers like Khaw Boon Wan, Lim Hng Kiang, Lim Swee Say and Yaacob Ibrahim.
The others are former MPs: Ang Hin Kee, Cedric Foo, Chia Shi-Lu, Fatimah Lateef, Intan Azura Mokhtar, Lee Bee Wah, Lee Yi Shyan, Lily Neo, Ong Teng Koon, Sam Tan, Teo Ho Pin, Teo Ser Luck, Yee Chia Hsing and Zainal Sapari.
Mr Lee highlighted some ways in which each of them brought about change and how they contributed to the party and their constituencies.
He gave examples of how these former MPs transformed public areas, became advocates for the likes of lower wage workers and the elderly, and the ways in which they won over residents at elections.
“They give a sense of the scope and significance of MPs’ duties, and explain why being an MP is so demanding, yet so fulfilling,” Mr Lee said.
“That is also perhaps why for many MPs, stepping down is not an easy adjustment to make. It is hard to let go of the close ties formed with your residents. For me too, it has been a difficult task to ask you to step down to make way for your successors.”
The party chief added that he was grateful for their "understanding and big-heartedness" on this, and for their efforts in guiding and supporting their successors.
Mr Lee also lauded them for appreciating the need to continue party leadership renewal and ensuring that "Singapore always has the strongest team to lead it, both now and in future".
The spouses and families of the retired MPs also got a mention.
“They have sacrificed much, so that you could devote time and attention to your residents, and give your best as MPs and advisers,” Mr Lee said.
NEW GENERATIONS OF MPs
The party continues to need new generations of people to go forward, enter the political arena, and “fight for the support of Singaporeans and the future of Singapore”, Mr Lee said.
Such potential candidates should possess "integrity, commitment and ability", "the grit to take the rough and tumble of politics" and also the "passion and imagination" to build a better Singapore, he said.
Mr Lee added that PAP needs people with diverse experiences and backgrounds to represent the aspirations and concerns of different groups in society, as the retired MPs had done.
"Your varied perspectives help make our policies more rounded and robust," he said.
“We must maintain this diversity in our ranks, keep our party a broad tent, and field the best possible team in the next General Election.”
The work on this is “well under way”, he added
The next general election must be held by November 2025.
“In these very challenging times, and especially in such difficult moments, we must keep the party renewed, vigorous and in touch with Singaporeans,” Mr Lee said.